After coming to terms with its ties to slavery, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey renamed areas of its campus to pay homage to the slaves who built the university from the ground up, NBC New York reported.
The institution, which was founded in 1766, hosted a dedication ceremony a week ago where a walkway and two campus buildings were renamed after slaves, the news outlet writes.
The walkway—now dubbed “Will’s Way”—was named after a slave who constructed the foundation of the school’s administration building. A residence hall was renamed after abolitionist Sojourner Truth who at one point was owned by Rutgers’ first university president, reports the source. The name of the school’s Kilmer Library was changed to James Dickson Carr Library in honor of the first African-American to graduate from the institution. NJ.com reported that during the ceremony students performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” read Dr. Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” poem and rang the school’s two-century-old Old Queens Bell.
Rutgers-New Brunswick Chancellor Deba Dutta told the New York Times that dedicating certain parts of the campus to the former slaves is the university’s way of acknowledging its complex past. “The dedications will help the university take the next step in its reconciliation with this history,” Dutta told the news outlet. “Will, Sojourner Truth and James Dickson Carr deserve their place alongside the other historic figures memorialized on our campus.”
According to NJ.com, Rutgers’ acknowledgment of their slave-owning past only came about nearly a year ago after they released a report that delved into its history in response to being questioned by students. The report, titled Scarlet and Black, covered how slaves were owned by Henry Rutgers—the man that the school was named after—and university trustees, Sojourner Truth’s story, and how some of the school’s first faculty members attempted to justify slavery through their curriculum, the news outlet writes.
Rutgers University isn’t the only institution that has had historical ties to slavery. The University of Maryland, Georgetown, Harvard and other elite colleges and universities have acknowledged their role in slavery.